Branding Blog

Can you learn sales by watching the Barter Kings reality TV show?

Written by Dale Berkebile | Thu, Jul 26, 2012

Don't try this at home: The Hard Sell

I can really appreciate a good sales person and the selling or buying process when it is done well. As with most people though, I can and am often turned off by the hard sell approach. Wikipedia describes the hard sell like this: In advertising, a hard sell is an advertisement or campaign that uses a more direct, forceful, and overt sales message.

In advertising the hard sell is not as annoying because you just turn the page or go someplace else. The hard sell as a sales tactic though is a completely different story. I mean yes you can walk away. Far too often people have a real problem with being rude and walking away or are concerned about hurting someones feeling so they cave.

Last night I got home from work and my wife had the TV on. She was created a pizza for dinner and we sat done to watch some TV as we ate. A&E's new program the Barter Kings was on. Being lazy and a little curious, we just watched this show. After watching an episode or two I had mixed feelings.

The thing I like about the show is these guys understand sales and the psychology of people. This makes sales easy because they know how to work people. The downside is that their goal is to "Trade Up" meaning they have something of lesser value that they are trading for something of higher value. If the client is ok with that, it's one thing, but if the client starts second guessing and feeling uncomfortable and you close the deal anyhow, is it still a win-win?

Several times I got the impression that they were using predatory tactics on the clients they wanted to trade with. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the client caved partly because they were on camera. So maybe they do not want to look like a jerk which builds on their current need for approval and so they just do the deal even though they know it is a bad deal.

Manipulation can be a good or bad thing. If you have the clients best interest in mind then managing the conversation to keep it moving forward is ok. Using manipulation to take advantage and hurt others, is not the best sales practice. Eventually your reputation will catch up with you and people will stop doing business with you. Maybe these guys think in their business, there is now way for people feeling burnt to spread the word and hurt their business. In this digital world I disagree - blogs and social media can spread like wild fire.

So to wrap things up Barter Kings is kind of interesting and they definitely have some sales skills. If you like watching sales and the psychology of people's interactions, you might like the show. I'm not sure the sales skills are ones I want to use. Being a trusted adviser is the strategy I take and it builds longterm relationships.

Watch this video clip to get a preview of the show, but to get the full experience you have to watch the show. You really do not see the sales tactics they use unless you watch the show. Things like asking why the customer wants the "XYZ Item"? Then getting people emotionally involved and putting pressure on them to make a bad decision. It is certainly hard selling at its finest, but does it continue the perception of sales people being jerks? I think so.